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Book Review: Inkheart
I have very mixed feelings when I think of Inkheart. Part of me wants to shout that it’s a wonderfully thoughtful book, and the other part of me falls asleep at the mere thought of it.
The book begins through the eyes of Meggie, the daughter of a book binder named Mo, who has an unusual talent when it comes to reading stories out loud. Although Meggie hasn’t even stopped to consider why her father doesn’t read out loud, she is soon given reason for suspicion when a mysterious traveler named Dustfinger shows up outside their house. In a state of controlled panic, Mo attempts to uproot their small family and run from a threat he refuses to tell Meggie more about. What results is a rush across the countryside to avoid a character who by all accounts shouldn’t exist. The book keeps us guessing as we watch fictional characters come to life and struggle to make a place for themselves in the real world.
It’s clear, upon reading Inkheart that Cornelia Funke put a lot of work into the narrative. Not only does she use quotes from other stories and integrate their concepts and characters into her own story, she does so with a smooth writing style that glides the eyes quickly across the page. She has also created a number of intriguing characters that manage to avoid their seemingly predestined fate and raise the question of what would happen if a written story was fundamentally changed forever.
Considering that I’m a writer and a lover of books, one would think this story would be right up my alley. To an extent that is true, but there is one problem that this author suffers from and it darn near kills the entire book. I speak of pacing. I’ve often read books that are well paced but poorly written. You can blaze through these stories in one sitting, but you probably won’t take much from them. On the opposite side, some stories are very well written, but they lose general readers with disjointed pacing. In the case of Inkheart, the author gets plot and character right, but stumbles embarrassingly with its pace. She builds up a number of climactic sequences, but once they pass, the story moves at a crawl before it can discover what it wants to do next. This includes what seems like a story arc near the beginning that is quickly belittled and set aside until the book can move along to the real climax of the novel.
It took me quite a long time to finish this book, and it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, it was just because each time I read it, it felt like nothing was really happening. Had the story been trimmed of several chapters and a few events had been relocated, this would be a children’s book to rival some of the greats, but I fear most children won’t give it a second glance when it first starts to slow down the action.
Aside from this rather glaring flaw, the book is a true gem. It integrates old literature and new literature in a way that makes sense, and is a story to be appreciated by anyone who considers themselves an author. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to give it the time it asks for. It can meander in some places, but ultimately it is worth it.
4 out of 5